A2 Review article, literature review, systematic review

Insights from Circular Economy Literature: A Review of Extant Definitions and Unravelling Paths to Future Research

Open Access publication

LUT Authors / Editors

Publication Details
Authors: Alhawari Omar, Awan Usama, S. Bhutta M. Khurrum, Ülkü M. Ali
Publisher: MDPI
Publication year: 2021
Language: English
Related Journal or Series Information: Sustainability
Volume number: 13
Issue number: 2
Start page: 1
End page: 22
Number of pages: 22
eISSN: 2071-1050
JUFO-Level of this publication: 1
Permanent website address: https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/13/2/859
Open Access: Open Access publication


The circular economy (CE) has become one of the prominent topics in both natural science
and management literature over the last few decades. CE is a dual-loop regenerative system that
focuses on the effective and efficient utilization of resources in the ecosystem, which is beneficial to
environmental and economic performance optimization. Dual CE initiatives allow firms to increased
resource eco-efficiency, as well as resource effectiveness. CE has profound consequences for economic
and operational advantage. This reinforces the need for reflection on the definition that may provide
guidelines to assess and advance the depth and diversity of the field. We aim to provide a definitional
analysis of the CE and suggest future research streams to advance the existing literature. For this
purpose, we employed a systematic literature review to collect related publications in the CE. As
a result of this, a total of 91 papers were selected, studied, and analyzed. We proposed a sound
definition of a circular economy that includes the main identified elements, organizational planning
processes, customers and society, utilization of the ecosystem, and economic resource flows. Moreover,
future direction agenda, in CE research, is suggested considering three research streams: (1) circular
design as value creation and capture, (2) antecedents of key activities, and (3) consequences of key
processes. There is limited empirical research conducted on CE, and much of the existing research
focuses on theoretical, conceptual, and normative. A few empirical research studies are mainly
cross-sectional in their focus and are confined to developing and emerging economies. We hope
this study’s findings will extend the field of CE, in which some of the most influential information
regarding CE literature is provided. This study suggests that the development of CE initiatives plays
an important role in the growing digital transformation in the value chain. There have been limited
research studies in the interface of circular economy and Industry 4.0. Future research studies may
investigate the extent to which digital transformation can increase the implementation of CE, and
their influence on digital performance management.

Last updated on 2021-20-01 at 10:02